By Doug Paterson, MPA, Director of State Policy, Michigan Primary Care Association
Two happenings of significance occurred on the FY 2012 state budget this week. First, the House Appropriations Committee voted out all its budget bills, sending them to the House floor where they are likely to be voted on next week. In the budget related to the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH), Committee Democrats offered over 50 amendments in an attempt to restore various items including the Healthy Michigan Fund and Graduate Medical Education funding. All amendments except one were voted down. The one amendment that got support from enough Republicans to pass was offered by Representative Joan Bauer to restore nearly $8 million in senior program cuts made to the House’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 budget. Governor Snyder cut such programs as Meals on Wheels, Senior Companion, and the Retired and Senior Volunteer program (RSVP) by $2.2 million in his proposed budget for next year. The House took the cuts further totaling $7.8 million, a move that included eliminating three senior volunteer programs. There still remain no cuts to Medicaid benefits or rates.
Second, the full Senate voted on all its appropriations bills. The MDCH budget passed without amendment as presented by the Appropriations Committee. This budget continues to eliminate all funding for the Healthy Michigan Fund, includes larger cuts to Community Mental Health non-Medicaid services, and eliminates all Graduate Medical Education funding.
As stated earlier, it is expected that the full House will vote on its budget bills next week, at which point all bills will have passed both houses. It is assumed that conference committees will then be appointed to look at the items of difference and draft recommendations for the final budget. The results of the conference committees will then be voted on by each house and must be accepted or rejected in their entirety without amendments. The Governor is still hoping this can all be completed by the end of May.
One item causing confusion is that the budget bills coming from each house are different in format from each other as well as from the format proposed by the Governor. The Governor rolled his budget into six components, the Senate passed a bill for each department (19 separate bills), and the House combined several department budgets into four “mini-omnibus bills.” It is unclear what format will win out in the end.
Most of the heavy lifting will happen during the conference committee process. There have purposely been “items of difference” created to allow talks and negotiations to continue. Items of great concern to Michigan Community Health Centers—such as the Healthy Michigan Fund (including funding for the Michigan Care Improvement Registry), Graduate Medical Education, and mental health services—will still have to be finalized. Since agreement on these issues will have to be reached in the conference process, we will have to be most active in our advocacy during that time. I will continue to keep you apprised.